In the vein of knowing thyself and practicing acceptance, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it really means to be a friend. In my mid-thirties I find myself with many acquaintances and a moderate sized ‘group of friends’, but only a small number of true soul-mate type people who I wouldn’t want to live without. People who I trust with a secret and who I would happily sacrifice for if they needed anything. People with whom I can truly be myself, imperfections and all. As they say, the kind of friend who will help you hide a body.
As I get older, I’ve realized and started to accept that it is really difficult to find new people who I’m willing to let in that close (okay not quite partner-in-homicide close, but you never know). Like most of us, I’ve been hurt before by people whom I thought were dear friends. I’ve had friends turn their backs on me in ways that I know have affected my ability to trust and be vulnerable. It is a terrible thing to go through but for me at least, it has taught me some very valuable lessons about myself and about the people who I want in my life. For posterity’s sake (and to remind myself on those days when I’m feeling down), I thought I’d share those lessons here.
1. There is a ridiculously small number of people I will meet who will become truly trusted fixtures in my life; I might have already reached that number.
2. Even having one, the small lonely number one, such person in my life is a priceless gift and yearning for more is, in some ways, like disrespecting the gift of that one true friendship. I believe that despite how it seems when we look around the world, not everyone has such a person.
3. Other people’s lives are not what they seem! It’s pointless to feel envious of what we think others have; this in reality is just our own distorted (jealous? insecure?) projection of the things we want for ourselves. Translating those feelings into envy just adds another obstacle to our own contentment and happiness.
4. Trust your instincts with people. That little voice in your head or in your gut will tell you if this person is truly a candidate for your ‘inner circle’. I’ve ignored this voice in the past to my own detriment. Sometimes people can be lovely and close friends but never become the near and dear ‘soul mate’ type of person we want them to be. That’s okay. Remember – we might only ever find one or two of those people! It’s more than fine to fill the rest of our lives with the slightly more ‘superficial’ type of friendship, and thus manage our own expectations. If we don’t expect too much of them it is much less likely they will let us down.
5. Value the people who are in your life. Give them more attention. Feed more love into those relationships. They are worth it.
I still don’t know what is the magic ‘tipping point’ for when someone crosses the threshold to becoming really irreplaceable in my life. I’d love to keep expanding the list of friends with whom I feel sincerely close and accepted, but despite my efforts it doesn’t happen very often. More and more I’m just happy with the people who are in my life, and that makes putting the rest of it into perspective that much easier.